From the warmth of my living room, as I write this, I can see icicles hang menacingly from my roof — testament to a week of snow and near freezing weather for the week straddling the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. It’s the first of January, celebrated by the world’s billions, and I muse on how arbitrary it seems for us all to imbue such meaning to a day that’s not much different from the day before.
Of course, celebrating the New Year is hardly arbitrary, even if January 1st is. Every culture of the world has its own traditional New Year, spread almost evenly through our year, but peaking either at winter or right before spring. We seem to have a human need to dedicate a day, especially when the nights are at their longest, to reliving the year gone by and making plans for the year ahead.
This isn’t that fun this year; 2021 was a rather terrible year to look back on. A global pandemic raged on for the second consecutive year, disrupting life, society and connection. We all became angrier and more divided, and even less tolerant of each other. We were bystanders to terrible climate catastrophes, but refused to significantly alter our expectations. And we witnessed growing inequality among ourselves without a clear solution in sight.
And yet, what marvels we enjoy in 2022, that the folks from the Roaring Twenties of a 100 years ago would consider magical. Travel anywhere across the planet is within reach of many, not just a privileged few. We’ve set foot on the moon (and inexplicably haven’t made much more progress since). People live longer on average, and we’ve eradicated smallpox, almost eliminated polio and plan to delete malaria by 2050. We carry our communication, entertainment and information lifelines with us in a small rectangle on our person wherever we go on the planet. It’s wizardry beyond belief.
This day is arbitrary, and yet it is a day that fills me with optimism on behalf of all mankind, a day when anything seems possible. In that spirit of excitement, let’s ring in 2022. Some things may not be what they like, but undeniably, we’re making humankind better.